WASHINGTON - A number of memorials in Washington pay tribute to Americans in the armed forces.
On Sunday, a new memorial opens to honor all American veterans who were disabled while serving their country.
The one-hectare landmark adjacent to the National Mall, which took several years to construct, is the first to honor disabled vets. Featuring a five-point, star-shaped fountain representing the five branches of the American military, a reflecting pool, and granite slabs and glass panels, the piece illustrates the strength and fragility of the disabled.
For Ron Hope, who lost his arm in 1969 during combat in the Vietnam War, the tribute is a long time coming.
“I think this memorial is going to be a place that not only the disabled veterans themselves, but their families, their survivors, their caregivers — especially their caregivers," said Hope, who heads the Disabled American Veterans charity. "Their dependents can come and reflect upon what it cost every day for their blessings and their freedoms in this country.”
Hope is among the 4 million disabled veterans in the United States. One wall at the memorial has quotes with expressions of gratitude for their sacrifices. Sheets of glass inscribed with images of veterans tell the stories of what it was like to be wounded and how they cope with their disabilities. Hope said for many disabled veterans, it’s a constant struggle and it doesn’t help that many of them feel invisible.
“Sometimes the American public don’t know how to approach, don’t know how to talk, don’t know how to deal with them, and so, therefore, they avoid them. And that emotionally is worse than the disability itself,” he said.
Inform, educate, remind
Philanthropist Lois Pope began pushing for the memorial almost two decades ago after meeting soldiers at a rehabilitation center. She is the co-founder of a foundation that raised more than $80 million for the memorial, including $10 million of her own. She explained what she hopes the memorial will accomplish.
“To inform, educate and remind the American people of the sacrifices and the struggles, the continuing struggles, and the lack of recognition and respect we have in this country for disabled vets,” she said.
Pope said the disabled veterans memorial is a reminder of the cost of war; but, she says it is also a place for reflection and hope, peace and healing for disabled veterans and their loved ones.